Enough already! If I hear (or read) one more “the Astros’ payroll is lower than ____” remark I may explode! It seems there is a new story that comes out daily where some national baseball writer thinks they are being so clever by comparing the Astros’ payroll to Alex Rodriguez‘s salary or a couple of players from this team or that team. We get it! The Astros have a very low payroll. The fourth largest city in the United States has the lowest payroll in all of baseball. Everyone understands this and this is not some scheme to run the integrity of baseball into the ground.
The past few months we have seen CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman make snide remarks about the Astros’ highest paid player being Bud Norris at $3 million. We have read Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal suggest that the Astros could be an embarrassment to baseball. We have seen ESPN’s Buster Olney suggest that the Astros are tanking seasons to collect draft picks. Don’t even get me started on Peter Gammons’ ridiculous comments that you can find in Greg Thurston’s article here. Many of these same writers were praising Jeff Luhnow and the Astros front office on their bold method of rebuilding as recently as a year ago. The question that many have asked in defense of the low payroll is, “How many more wins would adding a top free agent or two really help the Astros?”
The Astros are in their current predicament because Drayton McLane lived in a fantasy world where the Astros were always one or two high-priced free agents away from being a championship team. With Tim Pupura as his puppet, he would ignore his farm system and splurge on overpaid free agents on the down-side of their careers. Is that what the media wants? Or maybe the Astros should just spend for the sake of spending. That way it appears like they are trying to win now, and then they won’t be hurting the “integrity of the game”. I mean, look how well the Red Sox and Marlins fared in 2012 with their high payrolls. Apparently Peter Gammons thinks our Astros should spend $170 million (Red Sox) to finish with the fifth worst record so that you’re not the worst team in baseball.
I absolutely love the Astros method of rebuilding, as long as Jim Crane stands by his word and is willing to spend in free agency when the time is right. Many have compared the Astros rebuild model to the Nationals and I think that’s pretty spot on. If you look at the Nationals in 2007, they had a $37 million payroll. They had many bad seasons, several good drafts, and as their minor league depth approached the majors, they spent in free agency. Last season they finished with the best record in baseball and had an $81 million payroll. Their payroll will be over $112 million for 2013, and as their young players gain experience, their payroll will continue to rise thanks to arbitration and long-term deals. The Astros do have the market to copy the Nationals and eventually exceed a $100 million payroll when they need to.
While losing really sucks, I would rather my team be horrendous for a few years than to go on a 20-year losing streak like the Pirates. Luhnow has decided to go with the “quick band aid removal method” to rebuilding so that we only have to deal with the pain for a short while instead of feeling each hair and piece of scab being ripped off with the slow rebuild. I believe the national baseball writers should back off the Astros and focus more on the embarrassment that inhabits Miami. This team may not be in contention in August or September, but there is no way you can tell me that the 2013 version of the Astros will be worse than last year’s team. As long as the Astros continue to progress, I will back the process.